Halocline

Halocline

[hal-uh-klahyn]
In oceanography, a halocline is a strong, vertical salinity gradient. Because salinity (in concert with temperature) affects the density of seawater, it can play a role in its vertical stratification. Increasing salinity by one kg/m3 results in an increase of seawater density of around 0.7 kg/m3.

In the midlatitudes, an excess of evaporation over precipitation leads to surface waters being saltier than deep waters. In such regions, the vertical stratification is due to surface waters being warmer than deep waters and the halocline is destabilizing. Such regions may be prone to salt fingering, a process which results in the preferential mixing of salinity.

In certain high latitude regions (such as the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, and the Southern Ocean) the surface waters are actually colder than the deep waters and the halocline is responsible for maintaining water column stability- isolating the surface waters from the deep waters. In these regions, the halocline is important in allowing for the formation of sea ice, and limiting the escape of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Haloclines are also found in fjords, and poorly mixed estuaries where fresh water is deposited at the ocean surface.

A halocline can be easily created and observed in a drinking glass or other clear vessel. If fresh water is slowly poured over a quantity of salt water, using a spoon held horizontally at water-level to prevent mixing, a hazy interface layer, the halocline, will soon be visible due to the varying index of refraction across the boundary.

A halocline is most commonly confused with a thermocline - a thermocline is an area within a body of water that marks a drastic change in temperature. A halocline is simply a region below the surface of a body of water where there is a significant increase or decrease in density. Density may be found by using the equation P=Mass/Volume(g/cm3)

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